Introducing Domaine de la Solitude, the Youngest 600-Year Old Wine Estate in Europe

Apr 21, 2018

East meets west, what’s old is new and everything that’s over starts again.

Welcome to the wine business in the 21st-century, and while that notion settles in say hello to Domaine de la Solitude, a venerable estate owned by the Lançon family, a clan now entering its 6th-century as active Rhône Valley wine producers. The Lançons go back even further in Tuscany where they hail from. Back in the day, their Italian ancestors achieved noble status in the high clergy and were closely allied to the papacy. When peripatetic Pope Urban moved to Avignon in the 14th century, his court came along. In time the Italian Barberinis (remember that name) became the French Lançons.

Chronologically Domaine de la Solitude is one of the oldest estates in the entire Rhône region. By any other standard it’s one of the most youthful. The tipping point took place a few years ago when young Florent Lançon stepped into the position of winemaker for the family estate. It’s been lights out ever since, thanks to a string of mid-ninety point scores from the industry’s top wine scribes and even more gratifying, high acclamation from a discerning peer group.

Recognizing this, Dreyfus Ashby – the famed importer of top quality European wines – stepped in and agreed to handle the Domaine’s wines in the U.S. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that a partnership between Domaine de la Solitude and Dreyfus Ashby comprises a formidable alliance! Here at Wine Warehouse, we’re happy to just carry water for these two titans.

The raw materials already were in place when the catalyst, young Florent Lançon succeeded his father and uncle as the estate’s wine master. The historic family estate combines both girth – it’s an ample spread stretching over a hundred contiguous acres with the added benefit of location, location, location – it sits in the very center of the appellation on the western edge of the coveted La Crau plateau, just steps away from the postcard pretty village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

This is “terroir central” in the region’s classiest appellation and home to a number of prestigious “lieux-dits” – essentially notable small areas with unique or special characteristics that influence the grapes that grow there. In the hands of the right winemaker, very special wines can be made from the primo grapes grown on La Crau’s granite ledges. The vines are special too. Some of them are 100 years old.  All thirteen permitted grape varietals grow well in La Crau’s hospitable soil mix of sand, loam and clay but the focus at Domaine de la Solitude is on four whites – Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc and four reds – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault.

Special grapes require special handling so the estate hand picks every vine, and then further elaborates the process by slowly sorting through each bunch and manually removing any clusters deemed less then pristine, before allowing the acceptable fruit to proceed along a gravity flow processing path that starts with fermentation in ambient cool cement tanks and ends in a smart mix of variously toasted, savory oak barrels.

Highly gifted winemakers with a native feel for their land and craft are becoming a rarity in a world of lab trained wine programmers. Sheer talent is a brutal but unambiguous separating factor. When the means and materials of a magical place like Domaine de la Solitude are added to the equation, it’s no surprise that truly epic wines are the result. That’s exactly what we have here with these selections from Domaine de la Solitude.

Thanks to the astute folks at Dreyfus Ashby for importing this estate and to the Lançon family for crafting these amazing wines. For the rest of us, there’s a corkscrew waiting to be engaged. Put it to work on one of the following. Cheers!

The proportions are classic – 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre, but that’s where old school stops and new school starts in this seamless rendition made from sustainably farmed grapes by young Florent Lançon. All three native grapes shout out in harmony in this delicious, easy to drink young Côtes du Rhône.

When a white wine is blended from three very different grapes that share little beyond the feature of assertiveness, often it’s a good idea to process each varietal separately and employ techniques specific to each grape. That’s what Florent Lançon does with Domaine de la Solitude’s Côtes du Rhône Blanc, a tidy blend of 40% steel-fermented Clairette, 30% Barrel-fermented (in new oak) Roussanne and 30%  barrel fermented (in one year old oak) Grenache Blanc. Only the Roussanne undergoes malolactic fermentation but one-third of the final cuvée is aged on the fine lees. Altogether the wine is so complicated it’s simple. Plus it tastes great.

The estate’s Côtes du Rhône Rosé, from grapes grown in iron rich soils in the southern Rhône, is a tried and true blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. Essentially a throwback in composition, it’s processed with such precision and subtlety that it emerges from the winery as a thoroughly modern “country blush wine” – the kind of cool rosé that offers both satisfying flavor and a surprising measure of sophistication.

The estate’s strictly followed parcel by parcel processing approach and rich raw materials come through loud and clear in this crafty blend of 45% low yielding Grenache, 35% mature Syrah and 10% both Cinsault and Mourvèdre. Hands-on “house” techniques and fanatical temperature control from start to finish ensure that the estate’s special vineyard terroirs and old vine qualities are artfully rendered in the finished wine. It’s an absolute palate party – and you’re all invited!

The wine that carries the Lançon family’s original Italian name in homage to their rich’ Tuscan heritage is a composition of grapes from the estate’s oldest and best parcels.  Essentially a “micro- cuvee,”  Barberini is brilliant in solid vintages and monumental in superior ones. It’s truly one of a kind.

This very special wine is made from the estate’s best centenary Grenache vines blended with 25-year old Syrah grapes from its most distinctive terroir, a parcel called “Terre Longue.”  Most years it’s one of Florent Lançon’s routine 95/96 point wines. Every year it’s a brilliant wine.

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